As Boomers Age, 1 in 5 Drivers Will Be Oldsters

Are we ready for the upcoming increase in numbers of senior drivers? The safety of our elder drivers, as well as the safety of others is of great concern across the nation as our largest generation heads into old age. The following article provides some interesting statistics, ideas and implications regarding senior drivers. To learn more about senior care options in the South Florida area, visit Advocare.

As Boomers Age, 1 in 5 Drivers Will Be Oldsters

Remember “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”? Baby boomers who first danced to that 1964 pop hit about a granny burning up the road in her hot rod will begin turning 65 in January. Experts say keeping those drivers safe and mobile is a challenge with profound implications.

The National Transportation Safety Board is holding two-day forum beginning Tuesday to better understand the safety risks that older drivers face.

Within 15 years more than one in five licensed drivers will be 65 or older, the safety board said. Their number will nearly double, from 30 million today to about 57 million in 2030, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Smarter cars and better designed roads may help keep them stay behind the wheel longer.

But eventually most people will outlive their driving ability — men by an average of six years and women by an average of 10 years. And since fewer Americans relocate when they retire, many of them probably will continue to live in suburban homes.

The result is a “mobility gap,” said Joseph Coughlin, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, which develops technologies aimed at keeping older people active.

“For many, our homes will not be just a place to age, it will also be house arrest,” said Coughlin.

Older drivers who are healthy aren’t necessarily any less safe than younger drivers. But many older drivers are likely to have age-related medical conditions that can affect their driving.

A 40-year-old needs 20 times more light to see at night to see than a 20-year-old, Coughlin said. Older drivers generally are less able to judge speed and distances, their reflexes are slower, they may be more easily confused and they’re less flexible, which affects their ability to turn so that they can look to the side or behind them.

Fatal crash rates for older drivers compared with other age groups begin to increase starting at about age 75, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Drivers over age 85 have a worse fatality rate than teenagers and drivers in their early 20s.

The main reason is that older drivers are more frail and less likely to survive an accident or recover from injuries, according to the institute. Older drivers primarily kill themselves in crashes, with these accounting for 61 percent of deaths in accidents involving drivers 70 and older. Sixteen percent of the deaths were their passengers.

Many older drivers compensate for the erosion of their driving abilities by changing their driving habits.


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